The bullfinch is a large, plump finch which feeds on buds and fruit in woodlands, hedgerows, parklands, gardens and orchards. Beautiful, easy to tame and skilful at mimicry, it was often taken as a cage-bird in times past. Shy and secretive, the bullfinch’s melancholy call may be the only indication of its presence in a thicket.
Unmistakeable if seen well: male bullfinches have a black cap, stubby black bill, grey back, black and white wing, black tail, white rump and rose-red breast. Females are greyish-brown. Bullfinches usually nest in shrubs, such as hawthorn and blackthorn, making a flimsy nest out of twigs and moss. The bullfinch breeding season occurs from May-July, when females will lay between four and seven eggs. The chicks usually fledge after 15-17 days.
- Length: 16cm
- Wingspan: 26cm
- Weight: 21g
- Average Lifespan: 2 years
Classified in the UK as an amber list species under the Birds of Conservation Concern review.
Widespread throughout the UK and Scotland.
When to see
January – December
- Bullfinches were once considered a serious pest in orchards, so much so that in the 16th century, Henry VIII condemned their ‘criminal attacks’ on fruit trees, and an Act of Parliament declared that one penny would be paid for every bird killed.
- The bullfinch’s scientific name comes from the Greek word purrhos meaning ‘flame-coloured’ – referring to the male bullfinch’s red breast